I HAVE A SERIOUS love/hate relationship with Mondays. But the day that I bought my skates was the best Monday of my life: a pair of pink/ purple Riedell Ombre Darts, purchased from our amazing local skate shop Sk8 Ratz. When my derby name came to me, it felt like it was meant to be: I was running up the stairs and stumbled over my big feet; as I went down, I shouted out, “I’m tripping!” and so Trippin was born. My parents were excited for me, and my Facebook friends said I would do great, so I started my first new recruit class in January 2019.
My lower back hurt; my shins hurt; my booty hurt; my heart was unbelievably happy, which is not a word that I use lightly as someone who suffers from anxiety and depression. I can remember stumbling around a roller rink as a kid made of rubber and bouncing right back up from the falls; I definitely felt more porcelain at 27, and already some concerns made themselves known to me: what if – or rather, WHEN – I fall and seriously injure myself, how will this impact my employment and my health? Working as an office manager for American Family Insurance, I spend the majority of my time sitting down, which can do surprising damage to your spine and neck, so I worried about how derby could further damage my mortal meat sack. Still, I progressed through skating skills and then derby skills. I realized right away that hitting, and getting hit, were not for me. I thought then that my journey with derby was at an end.
I reached out to my coach, Slowly but Surely, my derby wife, Microdozer, and to my supportive teammate, Beverly Crusher. Broaching the subject of maybe just quitting derby, I was quickly inundated with their love and encouragement to continue at my own pace and to find my place within the team that loved me and valued my contribution. It felt as if I wouldn’t be an asset if I didn’t actually play derby. I know now that feeling was wrong, and it no longer holds me back from participating. Now I see the importance of every position. We couldn’t play derby without our on and off-skates officials, and now I feel so much pride in wearing the ref stripes that I don my jersey even for scrimmage.
STUDY THE RESOURCES
- WFTDA Officiating procedures are accessible at: https://bit.ly/31SoUWb
- Cues, Codes, and Hand Signals can be found at: https://bit.ly/31Q5wsP
- The full StatsBook manual is found at: https://bit.ly/2Wj23Sy.
TRACK YOUR DERBY HOURS
Be sure to track every hour you put in on the track. Practices, Scrimmages regulation and sanctioned games all help you to become a stronger official, and it can be helpful to know exactly how many hours you have logged in each. A helpful officiating tracker can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/ zueq5o2
PRACTICE DURING SCRIMMAGE FOR ADULTS AND JUNIORS
Officiating for the juniors is fun; they’re surprisingly harder hitters than adults, and they are less likely to argue with you personally, which should give you some confidence in making calls.
It’s important to feel comfortable skating backwards and side surfing, so you can feel confident about keeping up as a skating official. Also it allows you to spend more time focusing on the game and less time worrying about tripping over your big feet.
PRACTICE VERBALIZING PENALTY CALLS AND WHISTLEBLOWING
I started to chatter during scrimmage, just talking out loud, making comments to myself if I saw a good play or heard a good call, so that it felt more natural to open my mouth and make a penalty call when I needed to.
With time and practice, I started to see penalties happening; I knew I was progressing when I would observe a penalty and put the whistle to mouth, ready to make a call. Still, I had to overcome my own inhibitions: the fear of making the wrong call, or the worry of a player disagreeing with me. Even worse, the sense of disappointment in myself when I definitely saw a penalty but didn’t call it. Why are we as humans so hard on ourselves?! Make that call! Learn from your mistakes! Be open to coaching. Admit when you were wrong, forgive yourself, and then move on!
The best feeling as a new ref is when you see a penalty, go to make your call, and another ref is already calling it; that feeling of validation that you did see it and you were right.
To date, I’ve only put in 46 hours of on-skates officiating time. Essentially I’ve been skating nonstop for two days straight; it has not actually been a long time, and so I have to find it in myself to be forgiving and understanding of the mistakes I make, the learning curve, and to recognize and appreciate the progress I’ve made since having first started. Most recently at scrimmage, I made two good calls that came so naturally; I saw the penalty and without even thinking, blew the whistle, made the call and the appropriate hand signal, and gameplay continued. I felt so proud of myself and yet it felt so natural and normal. I also started feeling comfortable and confident enough to talk to other people about becoming officials as well.
Having taken on the position of Head of Officials Recruitment, I’ve started attending vendor events and talking to strangers about joining our zebra ranks. I’ve been successful in my recruitment, and we recently welcomed Shreddy Mercury to our team. As he is also learning to officiate, he often asks for advice. It’s refreshing to see the new energy he brings. It’s also a weird feeling having someone looking up to you, when not so long ago, I was the one who was doe-eyed and awestruck at the events going on around me.
At the beginning of the year, I joined Derby to make friends, and now as the year winds down, I have found a family and I have found a growing confidence in myself, in my skating skills, and in my officiating knowledge
Learning to officiate has been its own challenge to overcome. Initially, it felt like I was watching a cluster of chaos, an entanglement of bodies playing derby. Understandably, roller derby is a rough sport, and the job of the referee is to make sure the game is being played safely; it’s difficult at first to tell what is normal in the full-contact sport of derby and what may be considered to be unsafe. To anyone who is also just beginning their road to officiating, my advice is to:
Watch Derby Game Play
- Follow @fiveonfivemedia, @nerderby, and other derby channels on Twitch.tv
- Purchase watch passes on wftda.tv
- Visit www.rollerderbytv.com for European teams
- Check out YouTube for more resources!
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